A masterpiece of architectural restoration – the 1908 Lisboa Hotel. Lisbon, Portugal.



In an ocean of chain hotels and mediocre design, the 1908 Lisboa hotel is like an incandescent light shining a lighthouse’s beam on adaptive re-use of space – revitalizing a languishing building, for a new purpose.

Photo  Credit Phyl Doppelt.

Only a few years ago, the run-down Lisbon neighborhood of Intendente, was known for its bus station on a dirt road: a den of iniquity overrun with hoodlums, prostitutes, and the pimps who ruled over them — one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. Today, it is totally safe: You might even say it’s hip and happening, with sought-after restaurants, bars, and shops opening in the formerly derelict and abandoned spaces and filled (pre-pandemic, at least) with a younger, more fun-loving crowd.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.                                     

Set in a splendid Art Nouveau building, the restored 1908 Lisboa Hotel on Largo do Intendente, has emerged as the grande dame of the upwardly trending Intendente neighborhood.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

Once a crumbling and dilapidated but magnificent Art Nouveau shell, 1908 is now an award-winning and world-class destination with a prime location on Intendente Square. This masterpiece of architectural restoration not only contributed to the revitalization of the area but also set a new benchmark in the art of adaptive re-use of space.

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

The 1908 Lisboa building is the anchor of this newly revivified space. Designed a little more than a century ago by one of the leading architects of the day, Adaes Bermudes, as luxury apartments,  it received the Valmor Design Award — one of the most coveted architectural awards of its day. Fast-forward 188 years and another architect, Pardal Monteiro Architects, would revisit Adaes Bermude’s meticulous drawings in order to restore the property to its former grandeur and prevent it from disappearing into oblivion, as has happened with far too many heritage buildings in Portugal. 

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

Poring over the original drawings with a mission to restore the dying masterpiece, Pardal Monteiro Architects painstakingly stripped and took the building apart — bit by bit, panel by panel, balustrade by balustrade, restoring every sinuous Art Nouveau detail — before refurbishing the husk. 

This high level of restoration was made possible by the owner, Margarida Almeida Ribeiro, a member of a well-known Portuguese family operating under the company name Villa de Santa Ana. The emphasis of the restoration was centered on the architectural preservation of the building, and it succeeded beyond expectation.

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

While the exterior is clearly Art Nouveau, the interior is modern, at times even Industrial, with plenty of Mid-Century furnishings that exude an upbeat and trendy vibe. The 1908 Lisboa Hotel describes itself as a restaurant, bar and, art gallery, all of which are to be found here on the ground level: the 1908 Bar, the Infame Restaurant, and a small concierge desk at the front door. A remarkable matching collection of original antique floor tiles in a geometric pattern covers the entire floor area, unifying the different spaces. 

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

The bar area has soaring thirty-foot ceilings, creating walls that are ideal for artwork that is a prime feature throughout this hotel. Dominating one wall is an enormous collage depicting an imaginary dragonfly by Artur Bordalo – a famous street artist whose art promotes sustainability and caring for the environment — composed entirely of remnants of trash left behind when the hotel was renovated. 

Video and Photo courtesy of 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

Tables set casually in the bar make for an inviting area and have a view of the lively Intendente Square. Bar 1908 serves original craft cocktails and wine by the glass — and this, combined with the interesting interior, is attracting a frequent and hipster crowd.

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

Infame restaurant takes up the rest of the first floor. The chef at Infame, Nuno Bandeira de Lima, visited many of the restaurants in the surrounding multi-cultural neighborhood before making up his menu. And with people from 80 countries living inside the district, the restaurant has a decidedly global character. Basing the menu on Portuguese dishes,  de Lima injected strong Asian overtones through the ingredients and spices, making for an original and eclectic menu — that the chef describes as “a journey around the world.”

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

The interior of the restaurant is Industrial in concept, with soaring ceilings and exposed ductwork from the air conditioning. The artwork is again by Portuguese artists and is tastefully displayed and lit, and pops against the white walls. With 80 seats indoor and 70 seats outdoor facing the square, the restaurant is also open to the public. It comes alive at breakfast and does not close until the last diner has left in the evening.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

After being enveloped in comfort for a good night’s sleep, breakfast served in the Infame restaurant is a welcome repast — especially as it is included in the nightly rate. This is a generous breakfast, make no mistake, with enough tempting options to fortify guests for the entire day, served buffet style or a la carte. Those who are up early enough can catch Lisbon coming to life outside the restaurant windows, including people on their way to work and the famous yellow tram taking its familiar route, clanging as it goes.

Internal Staircase and Stairwell

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

To reach the guest bedrooms, there is a colorful spiral staircase with a wooden balustrade around a glass-enclosed elevator making another interesting art-themed statement: a mural, hand-painted by one of the selected artists representing the history of the hotel and the dark days the country went through towards the end of the 20th century. As you ascend, you feel as though you are traveling through the vivid experiences of the building’s time periods.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

The conversion of the 1908 Lisboa apartments into a hotel created 36 guest rooms that are furnished with minimalist decor in subdued coloring. The best room in the house is the “King of Dome Suite” on the top floor, situated under the building’s dome with a living room that has a birds-eye view of the rooftops of Lisbon. Connected by stairs to the bedroom and charming bathroom one floor down, the bathroom has a ball and claw foot antique bath with shower.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

Due to the triangular shape of the building, each room is unique in size and layout, with no two furnished alike. Each welcoming bedroom is furnished with one-of-a-kind antiques, such as weathered leather chairs and reconditioned loveseats, and throw pillows are used to add whimsy. All the rooms have beautiful views either of Largo do Intendente or Avenida Almirante Reis. And the locally made beds are extremely comfortable, dressed with silky-soft Portuguese bed linens and a Portuguese-made throw on the bed complementing artwork from the neighborhood.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel.

The bathrooms are artfully designed, some with only a shower, and others with a shower and bath — so when making reservations be sure to check that the bathroom has your preferred amenities. Robes and slippers made from Portuguese fabrics are supplied, as well as toiletries by Castelbel Cosmetics, an upscale toiletry producer.

A welcome surprise, and unusual even for European hotels: a cell phone left in the room for guests to use when then they are touring, saving the expense of high roaming fees on an overseas phone. The 1908 Lisbon Hotel has a proprietary app, too, that works with What’s App, with much detailed information divided into neighborhoods and transportation guides that are quite helpful in finding one’s way around and using public transport.

Photo Credit 1908 Lisboa Hotel

The high level of service begins as soon as you set foot in the lobby, starting with the offer of a soothing drink on arrival, and carrying through to the last telephone call to the front desk late at night. For the guest, everything is streamlined and effortless. This is the hallmark of the 1908 Lisboa Hotel, as well as its management company, Amazing Evolution, a full-service hospitality brand. Helping the personality of the hotel shine through, too, is the fact that the owners of the hotel also participate in decision-making.

This democratic approach must work, given the hotel’s impressive list of accolades, including Europe’s leading Boutique Hotel Operator: 2017, 2018 2019, 2020; Portugal’s Best Design Hotel (twice); Portugal’s Leading Lifestyle Hotel (twice) — and eleven other nominations.

While under the radar in an emerging neighborhood, 1908 Lisboa Hotel is well-located, just a twenty-minute walk to the waterfront, the historic Praca do Comercio, and, the pedestrian street, Rua Augusta with its mosaic sidewalks and endless little shops.

The hotel is surrounded by multi-cultural restaurants including Cervejario Ramiro — a highly sought-after seafood restaurant — along with the most fascinating shopping, only a few steps away, such as the Viuva Lamego tile showroom and the flagship A Vida Portuguesa emporium. Although there is much to see around Largo do Intendente, guests are encouraged to explore other neighborhoods equally rich in architectural gems that have recently propelled Lisbon to the forefront of the most appealing capitals in Europe

Photo Credit Phyl Doppelt.

1908 LISBOA Hotel

1l00-295 Lisbon, Portugal.
Tel. 351/218804 4000

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the road less traveled